Book offers an inside look at the Dangberg family legacy
December 6, 2012
Touring the Dangberg Home Ranch Historic Park has been the way most Carson Valley residents have learned about four generations of the fabled H.F. Dangberg family, whose influence spread far beyond the borders of Nevada.With the publication of a new book, “Lost Legacy of Carson Valley: The Rise and Fall of the H.F. Dangberg Ranching Empire,” the generations come to life — warts, secrets and all.More than six years in the making, the book written by Steve Achard (great-grandson of H.F. Dangberg, who came to Nevada in 1853) and Conrad Buedel traces the beginnings of Dangberg Land & Live Stock Company, which owned more than 33,000 acres by the time of Dangberg’s death in 1904. The book rivals the best of historical fiction: Back-room deals, clandestine poker games, elegantly dressed women, fashionable parties —as well as family tragedy and financial highs and lows. The chapters are illustrated by scores of black and white photos.The detailed work relates early Valley history, describes the founding of Minden, follows family members through the decades and reveals how Dangberg’s son H.F. Dangberg, Jr. lost his wealth. The tireless promoter of Carson Valley died of heart disease in 1946 and left his widow, Gertrude, and daughters, Margaret, Ruth and Katrina, in precarious financial shape.Court battles ensued over ownership of the company. If it weren’t for intervention by longtime family friends, Gertrude and her daughters would have been evicted from the home ranch. They won the right to live there until their deaths. Achard writes lovingly of growing up at the ranch, where he learned to ride a horse before he learned to ride a bicycle and accompanied cowboys on cattle drives.After the two remaining sisters died in the 1980s, suits were filed over whether the Home Ranch would become a county park and who would take possession of the thousands of personal items stored in the house. Achard and Buedel chronicle how the home and its various outbuildings, now operated by the Friends of the Dangberg Home Ranch, came to be a monument to a remarkable Nevada family.In the late 1970s, Dr. Michael Fischer of Gardnerville worked for H.F. Dangberg Jr.’s surviving daughters, Margaret McDonald and Ruth Achard (Steve Achard’s mother), at the ranch, spending many a companionable hour over coffee. When the Dangberg Land and Live Stock Co. was sold in 1977, the last Dangberg company bookkeeper asked Fischer if he would like to have some old financial records that were slated to be thrown away. Fischer agreed and stored the papers in his basement.Thanks to the bookkeeper, said Fischer, the book’s authors were able to fill in unknown parts of the family’s story.In Fischer’s foreword, he says, “…the Dangberg family has always been shrouded in a cloak of mystery … Secrecy and privacy were of the utmost importance, and no one in the family liked outsiders looking into the Dangberg business or private affairs.”The book is not a whitewash, Fischer maintains. “The Dangbergs did many fine things, but some of their actions earned the enmity of many Carson Valley residents. This book is a real roller coaster: pull down the bar and enjoy the ride.”MORE INFO“Lost Legacy of Carson Valley: The Rise and Fall of the H.F. Dangberg Ranching Empire” is on sale for 20 percent off in December at the Carson Valley Museum & Cultural Center, 1477 U.S. Highway 395 N. Gardnerville, 782-2555, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., Monday-Friday.Dangberg Home Ranch Historic Park is operated by the Friends of Dangberg Home Ranch. For information on tours and events, contact curator Mark Jensen by email to firstname.lastname@example.org or call 775-783-9417.